Dear Ms. Beardsley,
I hope you’re doing well. I miss seeing you and my classmates at school every day, but homeschooling is working out well for me.
Mommy and Daddy are doing the best they can to make sure my siblings and I continue to learn during the covid-19 pandemic. They make sure we stick to a schedule like the one our school follows.
But they aren’t getting along as well as they usually do. Every night, they hit the box wine harder than they ever did before.
I suppose that’s because Mommy is a lawyer and, since her work has been impacted by the virus, she’s home a lot. Daddy has a construction company but his projects are on hold, so he’s home a lot, too. We’ve never spent so much time in the house together, and that has its challenges.
Anyhow, though they aren’t professional teachers like you, they’re helping me learn interesting things I never thought about before.
Besides my regular lessons, they thought I should read classic literature. The first book they assigned is “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain. I was shocked by some language in the book, but my parents helped me understand that its painful words and thoughts remind us of what people in our country did wrong in the past, so we can better focus on how to do things right, now and in the future.
That makes perfect sense to me. So I was surprised to learn that some schools have banned the book because it might cause some discomfort. But isn’t that the point? Isn’t literature supposed to open our eyes and make us think?
My siblings and I are doing really well at our math, science and English lessons. But Mommy and Daddy say that the thing we most need to learn is the ability to think for ourselves. They want us to use reason — not emotion — to make sound decisions. They call this “critical thinking.” They worry that too few people are thinking things through these days and that that is dangerous for our country.
So I was disappointed to learn that a Harvard law professor argues that homeschooling should be banned. Professor Elizabeth Bartholet said in Harvard Magazine that it’s authoritarian — that it allows powerful parents to lord over their powerless children.
She said parents who homeschool their children are overwhelmingly Christian and that some are “extreme religious ideologues” who question science and promote female subservience and white supremacy. She said that children should “grow up exposed to...democratic values, ideas about nondiscrimination and tolerance of other people’s viewpoints.”
Well, I agree with her second point, but her first point is a reach. It appears she is sharing an emotional reaction to her stereotypical perception of parents who homeschool, rather than applying critical thinking.
The fact is about 4% of U.S. children are homeschooled. Several studies show they score significantly better on standardized tests than their public-school peers — regardless of race or economic background. The fact is that the majority of homeschooled kids go on to flourish in their lives.
Mommy and Daddy have their flaws, but they sure are helping me learn how to reason and think. In fact, we are all thinking it is best that they continue homeschooling my siblings and me after the pandemic ends.
I’ll be sure to visit you often if my schooling continues at home. I look forward to seeing you soon.
Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Send comments to Tom at Tom@TomPurcell.com.